Photo via AP Photo/Chase Stevens
It was a chaotic race that saw nine cautions, including one with seven laps to go. Questionable decisions were made as leaders Alex Bowman and Ryan Blaney went to the pits with seven to go and there were tough breaks as Chase Elliott, who lead with 46 laps to go, wrecked with a flat tire as the leader and was taken out of contention. But for the second straight year, Joey Logano, sponsored by Pennzoil, won the Pennzoil 400.
I predicted Logano to win in my preview, but he won this race in a fashion I did not expect. With seven laps left, Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman were the two in the lead and Ross Chastain spun out with a flat tire and a caution was brought out. Blaney and Bowman decided to pit and Logano did not. Logano led after the restart and during the final lap, the cars were five wide and had a major crash that took out many drivers and the caution flag was thrown, therefore ending the race with Logano in first. Bowman and Blaney finished 13th and 11th respectively.
One major aspect of this race was Kevin Harvick’s inability to maintain speed on long runs. Often in this race, Harvick would lead or be in second on a restart and then slowly lose his ground on the first position as other drivers would pass him. This was a reoccurring theme throughout the race as when it looked like Harvick was in control, his car would slow down enough for other cars to pass him. Harvick finished eighth.
While the major part of this race was Blaney and Bowman pitting, Chase Elliott’s wreck on the 221st lap was also very significant. Elliott was in the lead during that lap and had the lead for 70 of the previous laps as he took advantage of Harvick slowing down and Martin Truex Jr. having problems with his car. Elliott also won the first two stages. But on that lap, he had a flat tire and fell toward the back. That helped catapult Logano toward the front. Elliott finished 26th.
Also, Truex Jr., who won the last race at this track last September, was second in stage 1 and third in stage 2. But in stage 3, Truex Jr. had to pit twice so he could tighten the left side of his car and then had to pit again after suffering a flat tire in stage 3. Last year at Homestead, he fell behind Cup Champion Kyle Busch after his team put the wrong tires on him and this happens this week. Truex Jr. finished 20th.
One major pre-race story was Kyle Busch and Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin starting at the rear after penalties during pre-race inspection. Busch was gaining on the top and got as high as seventh when he suddenly fell off during stage 3 and disappeared toward the middle of the pack and finished 15th. Hamlin struggled to get above 20th for most of the race, was even lapped by Chase Elliott after stage 1 and finished 17th, which capped off a tough day for Joe Gibbs Racing and the Toyotas.
Some notable finishes include Matt DiBenedetto at second, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at third, Jimmie Johnson at fifth, which was his highest finish since the Daytona 500 of last year, Bubba Wallace at sixth and Ty Dillon at tenth.
Next Sunday will be the Auto Club 400 in Fontana, California.